Brown bag angst

by DaniGirl on September 8, 2008 · 22 comments

in Mothering without a licence

I’m thinking about it all the time right now, and whatever I am thinking about is inevitably what populates blog. Might as well make it formal. I’m hereby declaring it Food Week here on the blog. Today, brown bag angst. Later, sample “menus” (I use the term loosely) based on my Plan B diet. Might squeeze in a recipe exchange if I’m still focused enough to stay on topic.

Let’s start with school lunches. Thanks for all your comments about Tristan staying for lunch. Turns out his entire class eats in and he loves it, so that was another one of those things I worried for no reason. Again. But, now I have a whole new set of lunchtime angst.

Take one mildly neurotic mother. Combine with a persnickety eater whose favourite lunches are peanut butter sandwiches and macaroni and cheese loaf (bleah) sandwiches. Mix in one national cold-cut meltdown over listeria and a peanut-free school. Liberally sprinkle with morning chaos. It’s a recipe for school lunch disaster.

So far, I’ve hit a home run with tortillas and shredded cheese in a make-yer-own roll up and with kraft cheese slice sandwiches. The jam sandwich and the breadsticks and hummus were less well received. One brilliant tip I came across was to freeze the juice boxes to use them to keep lunches cool. Works great with disposable or reusable juice boxes.

At this rate, I’ll be packing Doritos and Lunchables by the end of the week. Save my child from his mother’s lack of inspiration — what’s your failsafe kids’ lunch?

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

1 canadacole September 8, 2008 at 9:23 am

I hear you. Our school just went egg and peanut free for the first time. I think you’ve hit on some great ones. My dd loves bagels with cream cheese, or even graham crackers with cream cheese (they get a little soft but she doesn’t seem to mind). Other dd likes hotdogs; I cook the weiner and wrap it tightly in a paper towel while it’s still hot, then send her with a buttered bun and she puts it together. I think hot dogs are horrible so I only let her do that once a week. Pancake strips with yogurt to dip. Fruit or yogurt tubes (which can also be frozen). Lots of fresh fruit or fruit sauce (a lot of them are available unsweetened). I’m suddenly blanking but those are the favourites.

2 Lucy September 8, 2008 at 10:24 am

A favourite in our house is make your own pizza. Take one Greek-style pita or bagel or english muffin (whatever bread product they like). Put some pizza sauce in a little tupperware container. Ziploc some shredded cheese and whatever pizza ingredients they’ll eat (mine like bacon bits and red peppers). Add a spoon and they can make their own cold pizza lunch.

You can do the same idea but Mexican (seasoned ground beef, lettuce, and cheese) or Greek (chicken pieces, tatziki and cucumbers) or Caribbean (chicken, fruit pieces, and yogurt)

Good luck!

3 Chantal September 8, 2008 at 10:42 am

My D is the worse. He is in grade 2 and I have been struggling with this for 4 freaking years. He loves hotdogs but I can’t send them every week or he gets bored. MiniChef has mini pizzas that fit into his thermos and he likes those. He likes rice, meatballs and KD. Mostly all hot food. He isn’t a sandwich eater which bugs me. Basically I HATE lunches!

4 Rev Dr Mom September 8, 2008 at 11:45 am

I don’t know what the Kid would’ve eaten in preschool if it had been peanut free 🙁

After he started public school though, he started buying lunch at least part of the time and he would eat things there that he wouldn’t have eaten at home. They did a reasonably good job with child friendly and nutritious menus, and b/c the other kids were eating it, he did, too. So is buying lunch at school an option?

What about sliced ham or turkey instead of cold cuts?

I must confess I’ve never heard of mac and cheese loaf sandwiches….but could he take just mac and cheese?

Creative lunch packing was never my strong suite…maybe why he bought lunch 🙂

5 andrea from the fishbowl September 8, 2008 at 12:05 pm

(Self link in lieu of lengthy comment, sorry!) This is what SO WORKS for our family. Yay me!

(To summarize: ask your kids to write you a list.)

6 Annika September 8, 2008 at 12:30 pm

OMG you are one funny writer!

7 Jerri Ann September 8, 2008 at 1:14 pm

Hey, it doesn’t matter, I tried hard, I put a lot of thought into Walker’s snacks (he eats lunch from lunchroom but it is at 10:30, I figured he needed a good snack since he wouldn’t get it til 1:30), I mean I worked hard that first week. He didn’t touch most of it. The second week I still did my best impressions of Martha Steward but nada, he barely touched it. Finally I just said, Walker go in the kitchen and find a snack and I tossed in his box, no need fretting if he isn’t going to eat it anyway, right?

8 Jerri Ann September 8, 2008 at 1:15 pm

And the horror of it all, poor kids mom can’t even spell Martha Stewart right…it was a typo, I swear it was a typo, lol

9 Theresa September 8, 2008 at 1:25 pm

Sounds like my boy….first day I packed cheeze whiz sandwich (didn’t even know if he would like it – but he’s a PB&J kid and we have a nut free school) then I added apple sauce, a nutragrain bar, and a baggie of carrots. He ate the sandwich and the apple sauce and said there was WAY too much in his lunch. I Have grilled him…I mean GRILLED him!…on whether or not he’s SURE he’s ok with cheeze whiz EVERYDAY…and I keep getting yep mom…I’ve asked about all kinds of sandwiches and he sez can’t I just have cheeze whiz???? So I alternate the apple sauce with pudding – and threw in a treat on friday. The nutrigrain bar has been shurped back and forth from schol 6 days running now (he loves those) but I want it there – just in case!

Guess that wasn’t a help -but KNOW that you are NOT alone!!!

10 Marla September 8, 2008 at 1:59 pm

Here is where I swoop in wearing my super-hero outfit.

(Which, for the record, is kind of kicky.)

(What, you want to know?)

(Okay, my hair is in a little flippy bob, and my eye-covering mask – black and sparkley, you know – holds it down so it doesn’t get mussed when I’m flying. I have a little cape, silver satin on the inside and black on the outside, and it has a collar that stands up a little. A bateau-necked silver top, with an M in black sparkles against a darkish green medallion, a wide belt in black patent-leather, a flippy little skirt, also black satin with silver underside, boy-cut ladypart-hiders, and knee-high black shiny boots with pointy things at the top, and they have kitten heels. I also wear wrist-guards like Wonder Woman, but mine are platinum with emerald cabochons.)

Oh…what is my super-power? Knowing Things!

Josie’s daycare and school are both nut-free, and here is what her food-provider uses. They give the daycare so much of it that they in turn give me free jars to take home because Josie loves it so much. It’s really good, I’ve eaten it on my muesli bagel and like it too, and it’s all we have in the house now.

(At this point, I do a “shazam” kind of thing, and there’s a flash of light, and a jar of this appears:

(Then, you turn to thank me, and all you see is a small whirlwind of silver sparkles, and you hear the flutter of my cape. I’m off to inform someone else about how rice cakes with butter taste ALMOST like buttered popcorn, if you’re really hungry and don’t want to make popcorn.)

(And actually, Nadine will confirm, that I INSISTED the company we work for email ACE Bakery back in regard to their press release which announced their new home-made granola with almonds as a take-anywhere snack, which is great in kids’ lunches, when it’s not even allowed in many schools because even if it were nut-less it’s made in a facility with nuts and couldn’t be called nut-free! Seriously, I did. Ka-POW! Take THAT!)

11 Susan September 8, 2008 at 7:09 pm

Pickles are always a hit for Curious Girl.

But I usually ask her for a few ideas for what she wants for lunch during the week, and then just fill up the containers in her little laptop lunchbox (kind of a bento box ) with whatever’s around–usually lots of fruit, too.

12 Kerry September 8, 2008 at 7:27 pm

I’m a big fan of this site: It might help you with some ideas!

13 yvonne September 8, 2008 at 7:32 pm

I think Marla’s cape may have just gotten caught in my pig tails. OUCH!
K – little croissants, with sliced up cheese; chicken fingers (cold but my kids don’t care); a thermos with whole wheat spahgetti with parmasean cheese (chosen after realizing there is NO WAY you are getting spahgetti sauce out of clothes after it has sat on school clothes all day long); make your own pizza *I am sure the teachers thank me for this as they clean off the desks*; bagels with cream cheese; sandwich wraps (I actually prefer a smoked ham or turkey rather than deli meats as there are less nitrates); cheese and crackers. Rinse and repeat. Watch that cape next time Marla!

14 Marianne September 8, 2008 at 9:06 pm

As a teacher, I’m happy with anything that the kids eat without complaint!

The ideas here are really great. You can also ask though what he’d like fo rlunch — if there’s anything ohter kids in the class regularly bring that he’d love to have.

Pizza, hot dogs, bagels and cream cheese, pita and hummous are very popular in my class. Cheese and crackers are also well liked.

Definitely always include at least one thing more in their lunch than you expect them to eat. We talk in my class that you don’t have to eat everything, but you have to eat the main parts (ie – sandwich, or bagel or pizza) before dessert (fruit, pudding, cookies) and that you shodul eat parts that spoil, like yogourt, but you can leave things like grnaola bars if you can’t finish. So far, no parental complaints.

15 DaniGirl September 9, 2008 at 8:05 am

Meatballs! KD!! Make-yer-own pizza!! Spaghetti in a thermos!! Oh my goodness, but y’all are brilliant!

And yesterday he came home with a note saying they could buy Subway and pizza for lunch on alternating Fridays. Hook me up!! Tristan’s eyes bugged out of his head in delight when I told him, and I have no problem throwing $30 at the problem to have 20% less lunches to make — and then my bloggy heroes chime in to fill up the gap.

Marla, honey, I don’t know whether I miss you more when you do comment or when you don’t. But I am so heading out today to get some Freenut Butter. It’s a cool day, so Lucas will be wearing his little chucks after a barefoot kind of summer. *smooch*

16 alison September 9, 2008 at 10:18 am

I told Rachel to look around at the other kids’ lunches and to let me know if there’s anything anyone else is bringing that she’d like to eat.

I don’t know if I can suggest any foods that haven’t already been mentioned, but one thing I learned the hard way is that a lot of the little plastic containers (esp. the ones from Dollarama) are fine for dry things, but are not leakproof. So when I send cut up oranges, or olives, or pickles, I put them in the container and then lay a square of plastic wrap over the container (overlapping the edges) and then put the lid on and seal it. That seems to keep the worst of the pickle juice from making the inside of the lunch bag sticky.

17 Lynn September 9, 2008 at 10:52 am

Another great peanut butter substitute that I would recommend is Sunbutter, made from sunflower seeds in a nut-free facility. Our son has a peanut allergy, so this is what we feed him and he loves it. It’s available at Rainbow Foods in both original format (has added sugar, which is bad, but also, so so delicious and totally, exactly like peanut butter), or organic (which contains nothing but sunflower seeds). Our son actually prefers the organic but I buy the original for myself when I am in need of a treat :).

18 Marla September 9, 2008 at 12:02 pm

Oh, and if you wanted a real answer from my daily identity:
Josephine will eat pretty much anything if it’s rolled up in a burrito as opposed to placed between two slices of bread. So she gets cream cheese and cucumbers; or free-nut butter; or turkey/ham with raspberry jam and mayo; or chicken strips with garlic mayo and avocado all rolled up in a tight little whole-grain wheat/flax whatever soft tortilla shell tube. She likes how easy it is to eat, and there’s no crusts. I like how it’s less mess, and more inside stuff, less outside stuff (I mean to say balanced). If she needs a sweet, she likes butter with a sprinkle of brown sugar and cinnamon on it – it kind of tastes like cinnamon toast. If I buy the largest ones, we save one for a snack later (or me). If we do the smaller ones, I make two, because they’re fine for a day in the fridge (or one for me).

19 Marla September 9, 2008 at 12:02 pm

And, you know I miss you. I may have found a plan to get to Ottawa in November, you know…

20 Reluctant Housewife September 9, 2008 at 3:15 pm

Nut free peanut butter? Um…ew. Maybe I’m crazy. What is it made of? I went to the website and there’s lots of nutritional information, but no ingredients. Is it soy?

Anyway… here are my standbys: hummus sandwiches, cheddar sandwiches, or I’ll cook some chicken breast and it use it for sandwiches; in a thermos: soup, pasta, rice, leftovers of any description; bagels and cream cheese is a great idea too. My guy’s favourite sandwich right now is chicken, hummus, mustard, lettuce and cucumber.

Thanks for all the great ideas, everybody!

21 jennP September 15, 2008 at 4:13 pm

i’m a bit late on the comment, but I am just catching up on blogs today.

My daughter is in a peanut free, junk free school. (the school board cancelled hot dog day at school) , we get whole wheat pizza with cheese only (took out the pepperoni option) once a week (i think… its not started yet).

My daughter is what may be considered a picky eater. I consider it as an eater who likes everything separate. (mixing ingredients doesn’t call for success). I have discovered that no matter what I give her, i can make it creative and she will make more of an effort to eat it. I have little cookie cutters that I got at Artistic cake and design in ottawa and at bulk barn as well. Some are flowers, butterflies, etc… i got the mini ones so i could shape her cucumbers and carrots, cheese and other veggies. I also have a wavy cutter from pampered chef where i can cut wavy strips. I try to make her lunch appealing. I bought a “lap top Lunch” system (there is a distributor in ottawa but they also sell them at!) its a cute system where all the food is divided. (which appeals to my daughter)

I find that my savior is Perogies. I buy the frozen ones, boil them in the morning, cut them up and put them in a thermos. Add a little container of ketchup and she is SO happy! I find the thermos to be GREAT for leftovers… and for a warm option. I also got the cinnamon & raisin breakfast pitas at Costco and she loves that simply with maragarine on it. Add a few chopped up fruits, a few chopped up veggies, a bear paw and you have a meal! I also add some applesauce cups on some days… i discovered the possibilities are endless.

another idea I got is to buy picks, the little decorative picks you usually get for decorations. I cut up small cubes of ham, or other stuff. If she liked mixing things, i could put a cube of ham, a cube of pineapple, and one of cheese, all on the same stick (tried it once, she doesnt like that they all touched!) but any kind of brochette like that is adorable.

here are 2 examples of the crafty plates i made (this can easily be packed in her lunch)

Lat week she told me a few times that her friends were impressed with her lunch. Yesterday she said someone said “but my mom never makes that for me”.

i got halloween picks for next month… she hasn’t seen them so i can’t wait to try different things! i will take pics and post them so i can remember how creative i was for the first half of the year once i get discouraged the second half. haha
good luck!

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